How "Laura’s" Chicago Trip Turned Into Sex Trafficking

Dec. 10, 2018, 8:45 p.m. ·

"Laura," during her interview for the NET News "Sold for Sex" project (image by David Koehn, NET)

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How does sex trafficking happen? There’s a lot we can learn from the stories of victims. These are featured in the NET News documentary “Sold for Sex: Survivor Stories,” which airs tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 11) at 10:30 p.m. CT on NET-HD. For this NET News Signature Story, we share the story of a young woman whose simple trip to Chicago became a nightmare. Be aware this story deals with subject matter of an adult nature and at her request we’ve masked “Laura’s” real identity.

"Laura's" story is part of the NET News documentary "Sold for Sex: Survivor Stories." It airs tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 11) at 10:30 p.m. CT on NET-HD. You can also watch this documentary and "Sold for Sex: Trafficking in Nebraska" and learn more about the project, on the "Sold for Sex" web site.

"Sold for Sex: Survivor Stories" includes:

  • The powerful stories of three different Nebraska trafficking survivors.
  • Interviews with experts on how people become trafficking victims, and why the crime is often not reported or punished.
  • Perspective from more than 20 Nebraska trafficking survivors compiled for a new report.

“Laura” thought she was on the road to a better life the day she left Omaha for a trip to Chicago. A couple years earlier she was gang raped, then trafficked by an abusive boyfriend who also got her hooked on drugs. But she got help, got clean, and went back to school and church. She met a new guy who was a little mysterious but nice and clean-cut. They were just friends. They’d known each other about a year when he told “Laura” he was driving to Chicago, and offered a ride so she could hang out with friends. Everything was great until they reached the city.

“I'm sitting in the car and he's like, ‘Can I use your phone really quick?’ Being naïve and young I just passed him over what I would call my lifeline,” “Laura” recalled in an interview for the NET News “Sold for Sex: Survivor Stories” documentary. “Follow him inside and it's one of those brick duplex houses, it felt like probably four different little apartments in one house. I remember going in and as we were about to go downstairs he just turns at me, he punches me in my face and I feel the blood running down. He just looks at me and he's like, ‘Don't do anything stupid, do whatever I tell you to do.’ So I'm thinking in my head, ‘What the, what is going on? What is he talking about?’”

“Laura” said she was thrown in a dark room with red lights, a concrete floor and a bed built into the wall.

“That whole time was a blur, being drugged, beat, raped repeatedly,” “Laura” said. “I mean you wake up and it was the next guy, and you just pray the next guy was nice or pray that they would use a condom. I remember every time the door opened I would cringe because I didn't know if I was going to get beat. I didn't know if this next guy was going to be violent. I never knew. You had no control of your life or what happens to you.

“He had my phone and he was using it to contact, like when my parents would contact me he would text as me,” she said. “If they would call too much he would give me the phone. But before any time he would give me the phone he would threaten me and say, ‘Remember I know where your family lives and remember I will kill your nephew.’ You don't know how many days you've been passed out because sometimes they would beat you so bad that you just go unconscious. Or you'd be so drugged-up you don't know.”

“Laura” thought the nightmare was over when her traffickers came in one day and said “we’re leaving.” But instead they were driving her to South Dakota and a house “Laura” said was busy with drugs, gambling and prostitution.

“And the cycle begins all over again,” she said. “One john after the next john after the next john after the next john. Then when you think you're done, then you have all the pimps and they take their turn at you.

“I kind of had become accustomed, I was smart I never back-talked,” “Laura” remembered. “They asked me to do something, I did it. I cooked, I cleaned. It was like slavery like slave days, you were just modern day. You never would think driving past this house that there are girls in there that can't leave.

“There were a lot of times where death seemed a lot better than what I was living,” she said. “I had become so numb to the men beating and just doing whatever they wanted with me. It didn't bother me no more and that's a scary feeling when someone could come in there and punch you in your face, beat you, rape you, try to mutilate, do all that stuff to you and it didn't matter no more. You lose your sense of worth. You don't feel like a human being and I think that's the biggest thing with a lot trafficking victims people don't understand.”

Then came the turning point. “Laura’s” traffickers told her they were moving again. This time leaving everything about her life behind. Her family, no one would know where she was going.

“If I didn't do something or if I didn't try to run I could disappear, and I wouldn't be sitting here right now,” she recalled. “I knew what disappear meant. I knew what that meant and I just didn't feel like giving up yet.”

“Laura” made up a story about needing to go a nearby gas station. She jumped a fence and ran, got to a phone and got to local police, who she said were more interested in a drug investigation. Then she waited for her parents to come and bring her back to Nebraska. The next day they took her to the hospital to begin treatment of a long list of injuries.

“Truth be said I pray I can still have kids after the damage that's been done to me,” “Laura” said. “But the physical damage doesn't compare to the mental and emotional damage that I had. For a good three months maybe, three to five months, I didn't want to leave the house. If my parents weren't going I wasn't going. How can I explain it? It was like shell shock. Everything scared me, everything frightened me.”

Which brings us to now. “Laura” found a good counselor and her parents helped her decide to be a victor, not a victim. She earned a college degree and has a good job. She still fights post-traumatic stress disorder. And she does want others to learn from her story.

“Hopefully it opens people's eyes, that they start to be more aware of their surroundings and what's going on,” Laura” said. “Maybe it'll make a mom check their daughter's Facebook and stuff more. My biggest thing is just I share my story for awareness so that there won't be another me. Or I can save another girl's life and give a mom hope, give a dad hope that their child can make it through it.”

Because “Laura” said what happened to her can happen to anyone.